It was the type of loss that New York Red Bulls fans have come to endure and even expect. A former RBNY player who never actually featured in a Major League Soccer match for the club came back to haunt them in a big way on Tuesday, and Harrisburg City Islanders continued their dream run in the 2012 US Open Cup with a 3-1 victory over New York. Harrisburg's victory wasn't without a significant amount of controversy, but New York certainly have no claim to a win following two hours of soccer. What's done is done, and the Red Bulls are now off for 12 days before heading to Chicago to take on the Fire.
Use that time to get healthy, boys.
Harrisburg defeat NY Red Bulls 3-1: Praise deserved
It would be completely unfair to the USL PRO side to pretend that their win was not a result of hard work, determination and solid play. Sainey Touray caused problems in the defensive third for New York throughout both halves, and he opened the scoring 13 minutes into play with a smashing header that, according to the commentary crew and several individuals I've spoken with who had an in-person view of the incident, probably shouldn't have counted (more on that later). Touray then buried a second goal just a few minutes into extra time, a cool chip that isn't easy to complete in such a pressure situation and when attempting to beat a goalkeeper such as Ryan Meara.
Credit must also be dished out to the Harrisburg back line and goalkeeper. Nick Noble made every routine save he had to during regulation, and he came up with a couple of clutch stoppage time stops. An RBNY attack visibly frustrated after going down 1-0 early, one that was missing several noteworthy players, failed to consistently break through an anchored-down back line, and it's why New York couldn't produce a game-winner in regulation.
Harrisburg defeat NY Red Bulls 3-1: Cannot be ignored
I have yet to see a clear replay of the game's first goal, and, from what I've been told, one might not exist. Both men calling the action via the online stream that was featured on the RBNY website immediately stated that Touray was in an offside position before nodding home the match opener, and fans in attendance echoed such statements via social networking websites and fan forums both during and after the match.
The most significant non-call came during the second period of extra time. A cross was sent into the Harrisburg penalty area, and non-goalkeeper Jason Pelletier raised his arm into the air and swatted the ball away from danger. It was as clear a red card/PK-worthy hand ball as you'll ever see, but the referee didn't make the call, nor did he even ask for help from his assistant. Replays showed the hand ball to be blatant and very obvious, and this was an embarrassing mistake, one that cost New York a penalty that could have resulted in the game being tied at two with a good amount of time left to play in extra time.
Harrisburg defeat NY Red Bulls 3-1: Backe was right
Unlike in 2011, RBNY fans can't blame head coach Hans Backe for the team being bounced from the US Open Cup this time around. Backe complained to anybody who would listen over the past several weeks about USOC fixtures being scheduled during international dates, and the lack of depth certainly hurt the Red Bulls on Tuesday evening. New York could have used the distribution skills of both Roy Miller and Dane Richards, and Brandon Barklage wasn't nearly as sharp in setting up attacking sequences in the middle third of the pitch without having Richards to play past the back line. Nobody can say for sure if the Red Bulls would still be in this competition had they not been without five players due to international call-ups. Backe did what we could when choosing the starting lineup, but there's no denying that he was handicapped on Tuesday evening.
Harrisburg defeat NY Red Bulls 3-1: Where Backe got it wrong
I have two major complaints regarding decisions Backe made during Tuesday's match. The previously mentioned Barklage has been solid on corners and free kicks during MLS play, and he was responsible for the swinging corner that was eventually headed home by Markus Holgersson in New York's come-from-behind victory against Philadelphia Union. Instead of using Barklage in such scenarios against Harrisburg, the Red Bulls instead had Mehdi Ballouchy sending corner kicks into the box. The (lack of) results say all you need to know about that choice.
This one may not have changed the outcome of the match, but it is still a mistake that no professional coach should be making. Backe decided to sub Stephen Keel into the match for Dax McCarty three minutes from the end of extra time right as RBNY were preparing to defend a corner. Players learn at a very young age that such a tactic is a "no-no," and I'm not sure why the move was made in that scenario. Harrisburg scored on the subsequent corner, putting the visitors away for good.
Harrisburg defeat NY Red Bulls 3-1: Overall
By my very unofficial count, New York's total amount of memorable goal-scoring opportunities doubled that of their opponents. Harrisburg merely cashed in on more chances. The Red Bulls will have several "what if?" moments that will haunt them throughout this midweek, memories that we will re-live once video highlights are eventually posted online. All RBNY supporters care about this Wednesday morning is that more hardware will again elude this team for at least another year.
Supporters Shield or bust?
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